This week, I did something really insane. I’m in a class about culture, and we had a project which was to give a presentation about our cultural identity. In an attempt to be honest, I stood up in front of the really big classroom and announced that I’m a closet atheist. It was terrifying, but fine because I took into consideration that no one in the class is a very close friend of mine in a relationship that could be potentially jeopardized by this information. I’ve talked before, though, about whether or not I’m ready to come out more at school (actually, if you haven’t read that post yet, I advise that you read it before continuing here, as it will put my situation into much greater perspective). One could say that this was a big step in that direction, but telling a large group of roughly acquainted classmates is probably less intimidating than telling individual close friends.
Since coming out to a group of classmates and getting a taste of what it’s like to be thought of as the class atheist, I’ve decided that even if the stigma does feel a bit awkward, it’s who I am, and that’s that. But coming out is a complicated thing, and since it’s such a big deal for me, it requires a great deal of forethought and contemplation. I talked in the aforementioned post that you have to consider who will react well to knowing you’re an atheist and who won’t. Before coming out to them, I had only had maybe one or two conversations with my roommates about God or religion in the years that I have lived with them, so I didn’t know how they would react. I knew that they both faithfully (forgive the pun) attended church each week, but I also knew that they were at least a little more liberal than other students here, and this might mean that they would be accepting of my atheism.
I have a couple friends that I don’t think would be so open-minded about it. One girl I know can never get through a single conversation without bringing up how God has spoken to her and changed her life in the past week, or how inspired she is by the faith of her fellow students. One of my friends is majoring in biblical and religious studies, and one believes that the story of Noah’s Ark is literally true, and in my experience, those who believe that can be a bit hard to get across to when it comes to logic and rational thought.
In recent weeks I’ve been itching to tell one friend of mine, however. I know that she has other friends that are atheists and that she is a lot more open minded than a lot of people here. She loves writing and reading, and I wish I could tell her about this blog, because I think she would love to read it. She’s also made comments before about how she likes that I’m so much less conservative than I look (I look really Christian, if that’s a thing), and I wanted to say, oh, honey, if only you knew.
I almost did tell her one day, but I wanted to mull it over before just blurting it out. I decided I’d tell her the following day when I saw her, but I ended up being sick and not seeing her. Ever since, I’ve wanted to tell her, but I’ve realized that I’m always waiting for the right moment or a time when it’s relevant to our conversation. This made me wonder: even if I am ready to tell people, if it’s so hard and awkward to bring up, why should I bother; what difference does it make anyways?
As I’ve seen with my roommates, me being open with my atheism actually hasn’t changed our relationship as much as I originally thought it would. If I don’t think it will have have much of an impact (especially if I think it might have a negative impact) on my other friendships, why should I go out of my way to tell them?
As I’ve said before, being an atheist is a big part of who I am. It dominates my bookshelf, my social media, my Sunday afternoons, and oftentimes, my thoughts. I want to be able to read The God Delusion in public without worrying if someone I know will come up and ask what I’m reading. I want to tell my friends how proud I am to have a blog and to consider myself a writer. If my friends tell me about a situation in which they’re trying to discern God’s plan for their lives, I want to be able to give honest advice and say “actually, I don’t believe that there’s a God that has a plan for you, so if you want something, you’re going to have to fight for it yourself.”